Seeking out low-income housing can be an overwhelming task. If you are looking for low-income housing options for yourself, or a loved one, it is important to know your options, rights and what resources are available to you. There are many questions to ask yourself to determine the right option; What can you afford? What assistance can your health insurance offer? What facilities or amenities might you require? In this article we hope to provide you with an understanding of your low-income housing options and a starting point for your low-income housing search.
Most forms of low-income housing for seniors are available through four main programs supported or subsidized by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These are known as: Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) and Public housing.
Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly
If you or your loved one is a senior citizen who wishes to still live independently (after downsizing or losing a spouse for example) but may still require some assistance with activities like cooking, cleaning, maintenance or transportation, then Section 202 may be a viable option. Services such as housekeeping, meals, medication, counseling, and transport are common features of Section 202 housing programs.
This program is funded through loans and finances to private and non-profit organizations from HUD to provide seniors with affordable housing and the above-mentioned amenities. Section 202 housing usually consists of typical one-bedroom apartments with a bathroom and kitchen.
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)
Unlike Section 202 that is predominantly funded by HUD, this program involves developers and investors who receive tax credits for buying, building, and renovating properties that are being specially constructed for low-income, senior citizens. To qualify for these tax credits, a portion of all properties must be allocated to low- or fixed-income tenants.
Being a tax credit program, the IRS is responsible for administering this program. Housing typically consists of one- and two-bedroom apartments with specific construction and design for seniors. They can also have shared common spaces, recreational facilities, and a community atmosphere.
Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
Commonly referred to as Section 8, this is another HUD program administered at a state level that helps seniors, low-income families and people with disabilities. These vouchers are for privately owned homes, however seniors may qualify to receive these vouchers for rental assistance and utilities, depending on income.
Section 8 housing is inspected to determine if it meets the requirements and standards of public housing agencies, this is used to then calculate the amount of assistance available for you. This expands the amount of housing available and therefore searches should not be limited to just subsidized housing projects.
Public housing is generally apartment complexes and high-rises that are overseen and regulated by county or city public housing agencies. These complexes are made up of subsidized units that are meant to serve low-income seniors and their families. The HUD can also assist low-income seniors in finding private apartments that offer subsidized rents.
How Do Seniors Qualify for Low-Income Housing?
The qualifications for the low-income housing vary by program and living area with factors like age, income, and situational factors all a consideration.
To qualify for Section 202 Housing, you or your loved one must be over 62 years of age with a household income typically 50% or less than the area’s median income. Consideration can also be given to those living in substandard housing, those who have gone through some form of involuntary displacement or if you are currently paying 50% of your income in rent.
Qualification for the LIHTC has slightly different requirements but it also depends on age and income. The qualifying age range is between 55+ and 62+ and potential tenants must have a limited or fixed income of around 60% of the area’s median income. This can be higher (up to 80%) in some areas or as low as 30% in others. Existing assets such as a home you own will not disqualify you from LIHTC housing, however you can not reside in the home if applying.
Section 8 Housing has some of the more complex and extensive qualifying factors to meet eligibility standards. You must be 62 years and older and pass a background screening for income and assets. Your assets may also be used to determine your annual income. You must also pass a public housing agency screening that will verify your eligibility based on income, assets, family income and composition and bank information. Under this program, you must not exceed HUD’s income limits. Your yearly income must be 50% or less than the area median.
Public housing eligibility is not only determined by age but also whether you can pay approximately 30% of your income for rent and utilities. There are still eligibility requirements to be met for private housing, set by those managing them. In both these cases, waitlists are common and can be lengthy, however you may be granted placement faster if you choose to live in a unit that is considered substandard, agree to pay over half your income in rent, or if you are involuntarily displaced.
Qualifications will vary from state to state, so if you are considering relocating be sure to look up the requirements for the area you are looking to move to, don’t assume qualifications will be the same. Regardless of which option you choose, you will be required to show proof of your income when applying for low-income housing. You will also be required to show a list of family members you’re planning to live with, current rental/residential status, and history.
How to Find Low-Income Housing for Seniors
The most important thing to know when looking for low-income housing are the parameters of your budget and income. Though your age will play a role, it is important to begin your search with housing that is financially feasible and within your means.
There are a few key resources which will aid in your search for low-income housing for you or your loved one. Though you will have to be prepared to carry out careful research the information you will need is available from several sources. Calling your local HUD office is the first step if you are considering one of their programs. Websites such as ForRent.com allow you to search for low-income senior housing and contacting a realtor or housing agency is also a good way to be directed to low-income listings.
LIHTC housing can be found through government websites such as lihtc.huduser.gov and eldercare.acl.gov which also offers live support online and via phone.
Free Housing for Seniors
Your housing and cost will be determined by your income and means assessment, your local HUD office will determine the level of subsidy you are entitled to based on this information. Those most likely to qualify for free housing are veterans.
Low-Income Housing for Disabled Seniors
To receive assistance with housing for seniors with a disability, you will also be best served going through HUD. Section 8 already serves people of all ages with disabilities with 1 in 3 households using Section 8 vouchers headed by a (non-elderly) person with a disability.
- Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program Multifamily Housing – Program Description: Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program | HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- Intro to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Intro to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit | Local Initiatives Support Corporation (lisc.org)